Treasure Coast of Florida

storm approaching treasure coast

While visitors often plan a trip to the beach with thoughts of seashell hunting, there is bigger treasure occasionally found on the beaches in Vero Beach, Florida. After a big storm passes during hurricane season, remnants from shipwrecked Spanish galleons are sometimes washed ashore along the Treasure Coast of Florida.

gold coins discovered in Spanish shipwreck
Spanish Gold Coins Discovered In Treasure Coast Shipwreck Photo/ Wikipedia Commons

On July 24th, 1715, a fleet of eleven Spanish galleons and one French ship, set sail from Havana, Cuba to Spain but on July 30th, a powerful hurricane hit while they were sailing off the coast of what is now Vero Beach and Sebastian, Florida. The French ship was ahead of the storm and safe but all of the Spanish galleons crashed on the reefs close to shore and perished along with 700 lives and all the ships treasures. While the Spanish established a salvage camp and recovered vast amounts of the treasure, thousands of the 1715 Spanish fleet’s gold and silver coins were never recovered.

In the small town of Vero Beach, it had been rumored that sunken treasure lay off the coast and occasionally a beachcomber might find a gold coin or other artifact after a big storm hit. In 1939, a local charter boat captain discovered two very old shipwreck sites between Sebastian Inlet and Vero Beach. Because remnants kept washing ashore overtime, treasure divers came seeking fame and fortune in the waters off the coast stretching from the shoals between Cape Canaveral and Stuart. In Fort Pierce, one shipwreck was found sunken in just 15 feet of water only 200 yards offshore. In the 1960s and 70s, salvagers found huge amounts of gold and silver that they started bringing up from the wrecks of the Spanish galleons. It wasn’t long after that those ancient shipwrecks would end up giving the Treasure Coast of Florida its name. More than 300 years later, salvagers are still working offshore in hopes of recovering more Spainsh treasure.

For adventurers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt, the Treasure Coast is not just a place to spend time relaxing at the beach but it’s also a good spot for treasure hunting. After days of strong winds, the beach can be covered with shells of all kinds and perhaps a special treasure will be among them. The good news is that “finders are keepers” if you are lucky enough to find old coins on a public beach. Metal detectors are allowed between the edge of the dunes and the high tide mark on public beaches…if in doubt, ask. Florida State law requires recovery permits for artifacts found on state owned land that is underwater, but not on its public beaches.

Who knows, meandering along the shore and picking up whatever catches your eye might result in a lucky find but for the rest of us, the beautiful beaches are perfect for collecting shells, sea glass and driftwood. There is also fishing from one of the piers, snorkeling and diving or picnicking in one of the park pavilions. The Treasure Coast is also among the most important turtle nesting habitats in the western hemisphere. During the summer you can join researchers to watch a sea turtle release or take a guided walk on the beach at night to see the turtles nesting.

If you plan to visit the Treasure Coast and would like to know more about the history of the shipwrecks, it has been preserved in two museums in our area. The McLarty Treasure Museum is located on the site of a survivors camp on the south boundary of the Sebastian Inlet State park. Found on display are coins, weapons, and tools salvaged from the fleet of Spanish treasure ships that sank here in the 1715 storm. The Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum in also located in Sebastian, a town just north of Vero Beach. There is a spectacular collection of artifacts and treasure recovered from the ocean both on the Treasure Coast and in the Florida Keys.

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Earlier in our life, my husband and I lived in the Key Largo in the Florida Keys, another area famous for shipwrecks caused by hurricanes. During one of our short weekend vacations to Key West, my husband sought treasure of his own. Bring a diver himself, he was interested in the treasure that had been retrieved from the shipwrecked Atocha found off Key West, Florida. He bought a silver coin that was mounted in gold and continues to wear it today. When it needed a repair recently, we went to a jeweler here in Vero Beach to have it fixed. The store had a number of Spanish coins found off the Treasure Coast in their display cases. Seeing the coins made me think that my readers might enjoy learning about the interesting history that happened right off the coast of where we live.

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

44 thoughts on “Treasure Coast of Florida

  1. That photo of the storm rolling into the beach is magical. It is always so much fun foraging on the beach for little treasures like shells or taking photos of the little crabs. Can’t wait to get back to scuba diving. Nice post and love the history!

  2. I’ve never found treasure, but fossils and dinosaur footprints are common stuff down on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. I love that your husband found the coin and still wears it. Fascinating history. Thank you, Karen.

  3. I have had much fun walking the beaches of all parts of the Florida coastline collecting shells and treasures. On our Gulf Coast in Alabama shells are rare as most have been ground into white sand by the time they reach our shores, hence the fine sugar sand beautiful beaches we enjoy. What fun it would be to find a Spanish gold coin!
    Jenna

  4. I enjoyed reading the history of sunken treasures on the Florida coast. Your husbands coin is a treasure for sure! The area is beautiful and it must be relaxing to walk the beach looking for shells. A few years ago we drove the coast from Ft. Lauderdale to Cocoa Beach and passed through Vero Beach. It was a lovely drive and we enjoyed the area.

  5. I’ve been to the Treasure Coast only for a very brief time. It’s really nice — although I never found any treasure, alas. 🙂 Fun read — thanks.

  6. What an interesting story. My dad used to collect coins . Your husband’s coin is quite a treasure. I walk our pacific coast almost daily but there are no such treasures to be found .

  7. Loved hearing the history. What fun it would be to find a treasure! Naples on the Gulf Coast is called Paradise Coast.

  8. I grew up in Cornwall – not many Spanish Galleons, but lots of shipwrecks, a rugged coast with beautiful beaches, lots of pirates and smuggling.

  9. Wow!…It is incredible that you can still have the possibility of discovering old coins in that area!…..it sounds like an interesting adventure!……Abrazotes, Marcela

  10. It’s really something… treasures there at the beach in Florida… treasures found at our Great Lakes beaches, farmers find Native American artifacts in their farm fields and we find treasures in the wild, Wild West! Love the history!
    Love those clouds in the first picture…

  11. that first photo is wonderful. and thanks for the history lesson. i love history! and am a member of 2 local historical societies. wouldn’t it be wonderful to find some treasure? i love beachcombing and love to find beautiful shells and pebbles. have a great week!
    cheers
    sherry

  12. Such an interesting piece of history. It would be fun to find some golden treasure on a beach walk. But I think an even better treasure is the nurturing care and concern for the turtles in the area.

  13. Karen, this is such an interesting read from which I learned things I was unaware of before. I have never visited the Treasure Coast, but I need to add this area to my list!

  14. Interesting, thank you. We have lots of beach here but almost no shells. Occasionally I will find a sand dollar but all the rest seem to be broken into tiny pieces by the surf. Shelling was one of my favorite activities when I live in Florida. Great post.

  15. What a fun post, Karen! We just got back from Charleston, SC where we stayed out on Folly Beach for a little over a week. I had a blast hunting for shark’s teeth, and we came back with over 300 (different sizes of course). The thrill of the hunt totally gets me going! In fact, I heard rumors than shards of Civil War cannon balls and other similar relics have been known to wash up on the shores in the area. How cool is that!? Either way, I need to put the Treasure Coast on my list of places to visit now!

  16. That is interesting. Where I spend the summers, near the northern stretches of Lake Michigan, we find something called Petoskey stones on the beach. Not gold by any stretch, but collectible nonetheless. It’s always fun to search for them, and a great way to pass a sunny afternoon on a beach!

  17. I have a friend who lives in Vero Beach and I just sent this to her. 🙂 So cool. Top photo is SO stunning! 🙂 ~Valentina

  18. Vero Beach is a wonderful area and our family had an opportunity to visit there several times. I was not aware of the fascinating information you shared at the time but what fun it would have been to know! Just like Valentina I also forwarded a link to your post to someone who once lived in Vero too!

  19. Your first photography is absolutely breathtaking! That picture alone draws me to this beach. Of course the treasure makes it a very interesting place to visit. What cool pieces of treasures.

  20. Having lived most of my life on the east coast near the Atlantic Ocean I always enjoyed beachcombing and collecting pretty shells and beach glass, but finding a sunken ship of old’s treasure coins would be a very exciting find indeed! Your husband’s necklace is very interesting to see

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